Music

Q&A: Singer-songwriter Nadia Ali returns for another holiday club appearance

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Call her name: Marquee’s Christmas crowd is in for Nadia Ali’s dulcet tones (and awesome lipstick).
Reka Nyari
Deanna Rilling

The sweet, soulful sounds of dance-music songstress Nadia Ali—famous for her work with iiO (“Rapture”) and later as a solo artist (“Love Story,” “Fantasy” and “Pressure”)—will once again grace Las Vegas for the holidays. Fresh from seeing her idol Stevie Nicks for the first time, Ali caught up with us before she performs at Marquee on December 25.

Dance-music vocalists used to stay in the shadows, then singers such as yourself and Jes found the spotlight. What’s the state of the relationship between vocalists and producers in dance music these days? In general, there’s probably more of an appreciation for people behind the scenes—which is kind of ironic, because in pop music the singer is the main person in the equation and the producers are kind of in the background. It’s definitely made [dance music] better, but I think we’re still a long way away from really getting into appreciating how much work goes into creating a song. … It takes both things: a DJ producer who really believes in a song to expose it to all those people, but a lot of these songs are very emotional and are written by artists that are trying to express themselves. I think we still have a long ways to go, but we’ve come a long way as well.

You’ve always had a more soulful voice, like Stevie Nicks, whereas the trend now seems to be sped-up chipmunk and/or Autotuned vocals. What are your thoughts on that phenomenon? [Laughs] First of all, I love you for noticing. Second of all, it’s funny because it’s pop music—whenever a genre of music gets really popular, it becomes pop music, right? Whenever it gets into that territory of the popular sound… the crazy scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs vocals that are meant to be really catchy and appeal to a lot of people helps [singers] that don’t sound like that stand out. Anything [where] there is a trend eventually goes away because it usually burns itself out. I think [processed vocals are] cool for the time being, but people are getting bored with it—that’s why you have vocals like “Wake Me Up” and “Waves” by Mr. Probz that really stand out.

How is work on your next album coming? Will it still be called Phoenix? Yeah, it’s supposed to be Phoenix, but when you’re busy touring all the time, it’s very hard to stay consistent about being in the studio. Last year I got married and I moved to LA and really got that whole thing out of the way and then just focused on my album. But it’s years overdue. I’m extremely happy with the way that the songs have come out, it’s just finding the right sound for the production to make it make sense for what I’ve done in the past, and also keeping it interesting and trying to do something that hasn’t been done—which is always a challenge.

Will we get to hear any new tunes soon? I’m working on a select few collaborations. I’m trying to do songs that have a lot of meaning to me and I try to always write music that always come[s] from the heart, but I feel like recently these last few years—especially this year—my music has been way more raw as far as emotions. One of them I can mention because they’re really close friends of mine. It’ll be with Sultan & Ned Shepard—that’ll be something that comes out hopefully in the next couple of months.

What’s it called? It’s not done yet, so we’re still working on the title.

As the “Queen of Clubs,” who are some of the producers you’d like to work with now? Not particularly any dance producers—that’s the irony. I’m really interested in working with a lot of indie producers, some guys that I like that are doing some more mainstream stuff that are willing to take on the challenge of bridging the gap between [commercial] dance music and house music and making [the latter] more accessible to the masses. So I’m trying to do something unconventional, but again, whenever you try to do something a little different it’s always challenging.

It seems like you’re always in Las Vegas during the holidays. It’s a great annual gig that I’ve been doing forever. I feel like I’m always performing in Vegas around Christmastime. I have the show in Los Angeles as well, two days later at Avalon. So hopefully my fans can see me at both!

Nadia Ali with Borgeous and Ashley Wallbridge. December 25, doors at 10 p.m., $45+. Marquee, 702-333-9000.

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